June 23, 2011

Michael Franks - Time Together

Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a personal perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul.

Michael Franks is unique. His mellifluous meanderings on life and the things he holds most dear never fail to enthrall and his latest (and 18th in total) album, the entirely delicious Time Together, is right up there with his best work. Not only is it Franks’ first release since the 2006 Rendezvous in Rio but also signals his debut on the excellent Shanachie label. As if to mark the event he has gathered some fine supporting musicians around him and amongst these both Eric Marienthal and Chuck Loeb play a significant part. In fact this sumptuous eleven song collection unfolds like a summer vacation for grown ups and there is little doubt that long after some of this years new music has come and gone Time Together will still be a firm favorite in the Secret Garden CD player.

The intensely personal nature of Time Together is revealed by the delightful ‘One Day In St. Tropez’ where Michael recounts a hitchhiking adventure through Europe during his college years and again with ‘Charlie Chan in Egypt’ that he uses to lay bare his thoughts on America's current foreign policies and it’s presence in other countries. That said this is far from being message over melody and both tracks shimmer with the distinctively restrained vibe for which he is famous. Much the same can be said for the zesty yet relaxing ‘Summer In New York’ whilst ‘Samba Blue’ proves to be a mellow gem that is enriched by backing vocals from the always superb Carmen Cuesta and wonderful contributions from Marienthal and Loeb.

Elsewhere, the title track (a tribute to his recently deceased dog) is nothing short of beauty personified while ‘My Heart Said Wow’ is notable in part for the input of touring band regulars Charles Blenzig on keys, Jay Anderson on bass, David Mann on sax and vocalist Veronica Nunn. ‘I’d Rather Be Happy Than Right’ proves to be a gentle treat and, although ‘Time Together’ concludes with the languidly rhythmic ‘Feathers From An Angel’s Wing’, in terms of personal highlights, the first single to be serviced to radio is the intoxicating ‘Now That The Summer’s Here’.

It again finds Marienthal and Loeb in sparkling form yet just as good is the completely dreamy ‘If I Could Make September Stay’. Reminiscent in mood of Franks’ sensational ‘How I Remember You’ (from the 1993 CD Dragonfly Summer) it checks every box imaginable yet just shading it as Secret Garden top track is the whimsical but totally beautiful ‘Mice’. Brought alive by the vibraphone of Mike Mainieri and sumptuous guitar from David Spinozza, this melodious tour de force will get in your head and not go away.

In common with some of the finest songwriters of what might be described as the ‘modern era’ Michael Franks possesses a unique gift for creating timeless masterpieces that combine eloquent literary imagery with picture perfect musical accents. Time Together is a consummate example of his art and comes highly recommended.

Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? If so please e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.

Posted by Denis Poole at June 23, 2011 12:18 AM